New York City Board of Elections Agrees to Repair Voting Machines to Prevent Lost Votes

October 8, 2003

For Immediate Release

October 8, 2003

Contact Information:

Amanda Cooper, 212-998-6736

Robin Epstein, Working Families Party, 718 222-3796

New York City Board of Elections Agrees to Repair Voting Machines to Prevent Lost Votes

More than 60,000 Votes May Be Counted Rather than Lost in March 2004 Election Due to Reactivation of Sensor Latches

In a lawsuit filed last July, the Brennan Center for Justice, representing the Working Families Party, ACORN, and several minority voters in New York City, claimed that more than 60,000 residents of New York City failed to have their votes counted in the 2000 elections because the City Board of Elections disabled a voting machine device designed to prevent such undervoting. The device, known as a sensor latch, had been disabled in all 7,000 New York City lever voting machines. With the settlement reached today, the New York City Board of Elections has agreed to repair the Citys voting machines to prevent this loss of votes in time for the March 2004 election.

We commend the City Board of Elections for settling this lawsuit and ensuring that thousands of people wont needlessly lose their votes on election day, said Jeremy Creelan, associate counsel at the Brennan Center and attorney for the plaintiffs. With the sensor latches enabled, New Yorkers will have a much better chance of having their votes counted.

New York Citys voting machines were manufactured with built-in sensor latches designed to prevent voters from leaving the booth until either casting a vote for at least one candidate or affirmatively indicating their intention not to vote for anyone on the ballot by choosing to write-in a candidate. The sensor latches were disabled beginning in 1964, but the City Board of Elections voted to reactivate them in March 2003. In April 2003, however, the Board reversed its decision, choosing to leave the latches disabled. More information on the original lawsuit, including an explanation of how sensor latches work, can be found here.

This is a marvelous decision by the Board of Elections, said Dan Cantor of the Working Families Party. We have criticized them when they have been wrong, and applauded them when they have been right. In this case, they have chosen to do the right thing.

Neal Rosenstein, Election Specialist with New York Public Interest Research Group, said: NYPIRG has been urging the City Board to repair and reactivate the sensor latches for some time. Now, as a result of the Brennan Center’s lawsuit, they have done the right thing and agreed to repair the latches. We congratulate the Board for choosing to ensure that thousands of voters votes will be counted instead of thrown away on election day.

For more information, please contact Amanda Cooper at (212) 998-6736, or Jeremy Creelan at (212) 992-8642 or (917) 693-9620.

The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law develops and implements a nonpartisan agenda of scholarship, public education, and legal action that promotes equality and human dignity, while safeguarding fundamental freedoms.